Opposition parties in AP favour holding local body polls through fresh notification

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Amaravati, Oct 28 (PTI): Opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday favoured conduct of elections to rural and urban local bodies through a fresh notification but the ruling YSR Congress strongly opposed any such move or even resumption of the process.

The state government said it was not ready for the poll process in view of the prevailing coronavirus pandemic.

State Election Commission N Ramesh Kumar set the process in motion to conduct elections to the rural and urban local bodies, holding consultations with various political parties on Wednesday.

Kumar, who was earlier removed by the state government, but subsequently reinstated through an order of the state high court, elicited views of the political parties on resumption of the election process, which was abruptly deferred in March due to the spread of the pandemic.

A Public Interest Litigation is currently being heard by the high court on the local bodies elections and any eventuality will depend on its outcome, official sources maintained.

Most opposition parties favoured elections but wanted the process to be started afresh through a re-notification after cancelling the March poll that was marred in controversies.

They also sought an inquiry into the alleged malpractices by the ruling party in securing unanimous verdicts in many mandal parishads and zilla parishad seats when the process was launched in March.

The ruling party, which boycotted the meeting, attacked the SEC with its spokesperson Ambati Rambabu accusing the former of acting like 'a stooge' of the Telugu Desam Party and asked how could free and fair elections be ensured under him.

TDP state president K Atchannaidu, BJP representative P Satyanarayana, Congress state working president S K Mastanvali, CPI state secretary K Ramakrishna, CPM Secretariat member Y Venkateswara Rao were among those who attended the meeting.

Atchannaidu claimed the government was shying away from elections only due to 'fear of defeat'.

'Why is it opposing polls when Covid-19 cases are on the decline? YSRC is making a mockery of democracy,' he told reporters.

Mastanvali said the polls can be held after the new districts proposed to be carved out were created so that many people will get an opportunity.

Later in the afternoon, state Chief Secretary Nilam Sawhney conferred with the SEC and reportedly conveyed the governments view that holding elections would be difficult at this juncture, saying the spread of COVID-19 was still not contained.

The SEC issued a statement saying he held useful discussions with Principal Secretary (Health) Anil Kumar Singhal and Commissioner (Health) Katamaneni Bhaskar on Tuesday and 'desires to maintain a close and regular interface with the Health Department to keep track of the dynamics of the Covid scenario.' Rebutting the YSRCs attack on him, Ramesh Kumar said the State Election Commission was only following the best practices of the central Election Commission in all matters.

'The SEC is a constitutional body and casting aspersions is best avoided as per the best democratic traditions. The Commission is saddened at the aspersions on a transparent process undertaken, which is a prelude to a stand it has to adopt before the honourable High Court in a PIL related to the conduct of elections, he added. PTI DBV VS VS